Is Puntland President a Kingmaker or Wannabe King?

President Deni comes across as a staunch defender of the federal system and bottom-up approach to state-building in Somalia.

Garowe (PP Features) — Puntland State President Said Abdullahi Deni will travel to Nairobi in what appears to be a pre-election strategy itinerary to compare notes with his allies against the current occupant of Villa Somalia. Theories abound on what Deni aims to achieve in his campaign. He intends to strategise with Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe, one theory goes. Another theory alerts people to plans to influence the selection of Lower House MPs from Puntland now that Deni managed to select Upper House MPs.

A third theory highlights a possible alliance with Hassan Ali Kheire, the former Somalia Prime Minister, whom Aaran Jaan (‘Devil’s Associates’ in Abdiweli Mohamed Ali’s autobiography), a group that pulls strings in Garowe, views as a favourite of foreign oil companies). Kheire will appoint a PM from Puntland, Aaran Jaan clique surmises.

Hassan Ali Kheire is reportedly close to Garowe honchos.

Deni plans to select elders who will select. He will nominate a rival MP for each subclan’s favourite MP, the theory posits. This plot coupled with unlimited powers to grease unscrupulous elders’ palms could give Deni a leverage unlike Ahmed Madobe, the Jubaland State President, who leads a multi-clan federal member state.

A fourth but somewhat plausible theory underlines President Deni’s intention to try his luck with Villa Somalia again (he ran for Somalia presidency in 2017). Politically, Deni attained more to push his electoral and governance agenda more than any other former Puntland President had ever done. His opposition to hastily enacted electoral law helped Somalia to return to indirect elections. He played a key role in forming a political alliance against President Mohamed Abdulahi Mohammed.

Ahmed Madobe, Jubaland President, owes his political survival to President Deni.

In 2019 President Deni suggested that federal member states should discuss bills before being submitted to the Parliament. Deni sees contradiction in legislative powers of the bicameral legislature and the limited institutional capabilities of the Federal Government of Somalia created, in the eyes of some observers, to keep Al-shabaab at bay through Amisom and sign agreements with foreign countries footing the Amisom bill.

There is always the risk that Mogadishu might overreach in its attempts to impose itself upon pre-federal states, a risk that can lead to undoing the modest bottom-up approach to state-building. The Afghanistan debacle shows that relying on one army or multiplicity of armies in countries that went through state collapse can result in more anarchy or an unexpected regime change.

President Deni advocates politically minimal state to enhance local governance, as indicated by the recent pilot elections in Puntland. In this sense Deni comes across as a staunch defender of the federal system against cliques of religious opportunists and nationalist demagogues. That is why his pre-election tour is the talking point throughout Somalia.

© Puntland Post, 2021